Bangkok Dangerous is a completely derivative action film. A Thai take on the whole Hong Kong gunplay/heroic bloodshed style of films that John Woo made his name with, Bangkok Dangerous would mark the debut of the Pang Brothers, who would go on to further acclaim directing The Eye.
The plot borrows its story basics from any number of "hitman with a heart of gold" films, most notably Wong Kar Wai's Fallen Angels which also featured a main character who was a deaf hitman with a lovely, underworld gun moll contact. Our hitman hero is Kong (Pawilat Mongkolpisit), a relatively quiet and unassuming young man, who after a childhood of being picked on because of his disability, befriends Aom (Patharawarin Timkul) and Joe (Pisek Intrakanchit) at a gun range. Recognizing his talent or sharpshooting (Kong's deafness means he doesn't have the involuntary reflex of twitching or blinking when a gun goes off), Joe teaches Kong to stick up for himself, fight, and be a killer for hire, while Aom, a nightclub hostess (hooker) becomes his go-between to get assignments.
Kong's world begins to get sunny just before it falls apart. He meets a cute, kind pharmacist named Fon (Premsinee Ratanasopha) and begins to strike up a romance with her. When she finds out- in a very brutal scene- what he actually does for a living, she is horrified. Around the same time, Aom is raped by a scumbag gangster she had given the cold shoulder. Joe tires to take revenge but ends up getting killed. Kong is forced to take revenge and... well, if you know your heroic bloodshed hitman films, you can kind of imagine the action-tragic finale.
The performances are all pretty serviceable. Dealing in archetypes, the actors didn't have to do much other than hit one or two emotional notes: Fon is the dreamgirl, Aom is sultry and streetwise, Kong is all naive and sweet surface with a deadly underbelly. And, naturally, when your lead performance is that of a deaf-mute, his communication is mostly limited to wide-eyed puppy dog gazes.
So, story and characterwise, there is not really anything new or extemely inventive. But, following the standard new wave gunplay template doesn't hurt the film because Bangkok Dangerous offers some serious doses of style. The Pang Brothers really went all out to prove they could, even on a low budget, hang with the John Woo's, the Luc Besson's, and the Tony Scott's of the cinema scene. They inject almost every scene with visual energy. Their camera tilts, whizzes, whirls, tilts and tumbles. They use everything from Ronny Yu/Wong Kar Wai ‟Blur-O Vision‟, varying film stock, CGI, slow-mo, fast-mo, missing frames, all just for the Hell of it, really. More often than not, I find that the heavy editing and cinematography effects, the MTV video approach yields little entertainment, just hollow trickery, but in this case, the Pang Brothers get it right. Their sense of style elevates the simple material and performances, making for a very entertaining, if predictable, feature.
Co-incidentally, on the same day I'm writing this review, I find out that the Pang Bros, who've already made the US move with a forthcoming horror film for Sam Raimi's company Ghost House, have a US remake of Bangkok Dangerous in the works with Nic Cage attached. While I'm not one for remakes, I can understand why, in this case, it isn't quite as bad. After all, the Pang's started off by making a film that is more of less a slight carbon copy of so many others. Aside from the language, it is not really that culturally distinct, so why not make it one more time in the US? Of course, I wont feel the need to see it.
The DVD: Edko, HK REGION 3 encoded DVD.
Picture: Non-Anamorphic Letterboxed. The film is a low budget visual dazzle and unfortunately this transfer is no great shakes in presenting those wonderful visual elements. While the films style and budget does have some heavy use of grain, this print takes the grit a little too far. You've got softness, some weak contrast levels, and murky colors. Overall the transfer is also technically glitchy with some motion blur and general compression defects that dilute the finer details.
Sound: DTS or 5.1 Thai language with optional Chinese or English subtitles. Never ceases to amaze me when a company can tack a DTS track on a disc but fail to give it an anamorphic image and vice versa. Well, the sound quality is good. The film has a decent action fx, though the surround mix and dynamics are not up to Hollywood standards. The subtitles were decent, the flubs were few and they appeared well-timed.
Extras: Theatrical Trailer & TV Spot. --- Photo gallery. --- ‟Making Of‟ Featurette (3:13) NO ENGLISH SUBTITLES on this brief Pang Bros interview. --- Marginal Cast and Crew text info that basically lists some of the Pang's films and the actors names.
Conclusion: Well, it is a good little hitman, Asian action film with a predictable story and routine characters saved by some severely interesting doses of directorial style. The disc is cheap in price and in transfer quality. The US version isn't much better. If you are a fan of the film or truly want the best version, apparently the UK release is the one to import, and this HK edition would be best served as a throwaway lackadaze purchase or skipped altogether.